Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Charge To Preach The Word

Paul's final charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 is to "preach the word". We need to take special note of this charge in a day when it often seems that no one wants to be known as a "preacher". We have communicators, philosophers, musicians, speakers, therapists and counselors... but so few real preachers! Preaching has become associated with being pushy, arrogant, and annoying in a way that is completely unacceptable to a generation who does not want to be told anything by anybody... not even God.

We must admit with sorrow that some of what is called preaching is a travesty. It is too full of the preacher. His wit and wisdom is on display. His personality dominates. He is self-assured and self-confident. He enjoys the spotlight and loves to be the center of attention. He uses the sacred desk as a place to tell his stories and spin his tales and tell his silly jokes. His goal is to make people feel good and in the process make them think well of him. This kind of egocentric display is sickening and explains why we see so little of the Spirit's work in our day in spite of our carefully honed prose and technological gadgets! God will never share his glory with such pompous, self-absorbed hypocrites. He still looks for those who are humble and contrite in heart and who tremble at his word!

But what so often passes for "preaching" in our day is not what Paul has in mind at all. He tells Timothy to, "Preach the word. To be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction". Notice that it is the "word" that Timothy is to preach. Too often this is forgotten. We are to preach the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as they are interpreted in light of Jesus Christ. Nothing else will do. This is where our power lies. This is what the Holy Spirit will bless. We must preach the word when we feel like it and when we do not. We must preach it when people want to hear it and when they do not. So-called "felt needs" are not necessarily the real needs of the human heart. The word addresses real needs as we preach it in a way appropriate to our listeners. Sometimes we, like they, need correction, or rebuke, or encouragement. We are to preach the word so that it does all of these things. And we are to do it with "great patience and careful instruction". As we have said before, it is God's work to crack open the human mind and heart. His work to break and his to heal and we must wait on him. But the wonder of preaching is that he uses weak human instruments to do these things as we faithfully proclaim the whole will of God (Acts 20:27).

To be continued...

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